Unicorns galore at system integrator conference

Systems integrators deliver sophisticated solutions to real-world challenges.

By Kevin Parker May 26, 2023
Courtesy: CSIA

Working with systems integrators (SI), it’s inevitable that at some point someone will say, “We’re not a typical SI.” And in many ways, it’s true. SIs come in all shapes and sizes.

Machine builders and automation equipment suppliers often offer integration services. IT consultants can be a kind of SI. Engineering, construction and procurement (EPCs) providers integrate the infrastructure and operations spaces. Even large B2B electronics distributors are introducing high-margin service offerings for things like lighting and motors and drives.

SIs focused on process control or factory automation can offer proprietary hardware devices or software apps that support the connectivity central to today’s operational endeavors. Besides having a business or technology focus, SIs also can be classified by industries and region served.

Systems integrators of all these kinds were in the mix at the recent CSIA Executive Conference 2023 May 15 to 19 in New Orleans.

Seize the opportunity

Labor shortages can create demand for automation solutions. By means of systems integrators, the resources for applying automation solutions are made more widely available.

Positioning technology know-how where it can have most impact, systems integrators work with industrial enterprises to design, test, connect, implement and upgrade automated systems to optimize productivity and ensure reliability, save energy or augment safety.

By combining sophistication regarding emergent technology updates with practical, hands-on experience, systems integrators are the means to significant productivity improvements powered by the convergence of operations and information technologies.

Discussion points

Lexington, Kent.-based global systems integrator Gray Solutions, A Gray Co., is focused on the consumer-packaged goods, food & beverage and life sciences industries.

Walker Mattox is CEO and founder of Gray Solutions, a Gray Co., and an industrial automation, operations and information consulting group, specializing in food & beverage and consumer-packaged goods projects for medium to large manufacturers.

Mattox noted that the food & beverage industries do seem more open to automation solutions than in the past, one reason being plants being built having larger footprints that can encompass more than one-million square feet, ten times what may be considered a more typical scale. This enhanced scale of operations makes automation more viable.

The wholesale product packaging changes instigated by COVID restrictions continue to proliferate today, Mattox said.

York, PA-headquartered Red Lion Controls said it’s been engaged with industrial data for more than 50 years.

Red Lion’s FlexEdge intelligent edge automation platform is built for SIs, said Courtney Peel, Red Lion product manager. “FlexEdge is a scalable solution to integrate complex multi-vendor environments into digital transformation strategies and a futureproof solution for changing application needs.”

The FlexEdge sled architecture allows organizations to leverage new communications technologies as they become available. Powered by Crimson 3.2, FlexEdge enables connectivity to virtually anything in your system with point-and-click simplicity.

“New equipment working with the existing infrastructure means capital budgets are kept in check. If the application changes, simply upgrade the gateway to meet the application’s requirements,” Peel said.

Jose Rivera is CEO of the Control System Integrators Association. Courtesy: CSIA

Jose Rivera is CEO of the Control System Integrators Association. Courtesy: CSIA

Proud to be cloud

Tim Ogden is senior director, systems integrator program, Americas, for GE Digital, San Ramon, Calif.

“The SIs are closest to the customer,” Ogden said. “They understand the pain points and make the solutions work. We provide them with tools. We’re constantly adding features to our products and many of them are based on the SI’s recommendations.”

Ogden said that whether systems were cloud native or not was becoming an important distinction in industrial computing.

Cloud native computing is “an approach in software development that uses cloud computing to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments. These technologies, such as containers microservices, serverless functions, cloud native processors and immutable infrastructure, deployed via declarative code are common elements of this architectural style,” according to Wikipedia.

These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.

Interesting system integrator companies

Automation suppliers exhibiting solutions at CSIA for SIs to recommend to their clients included the following.

Anyone who thinks PID loops are passé in today’s world should talk to the folks at Control Station, Manchester, Conn. The company in 2006 introduced non-steady state modeling, making it possible to model noisy, oscillating process conditions of industrial applications. Its portfolio of software-based solutions today solve difficult control-related challenges facing process manufacturers.

Portland, Ore.-based Glassdome is a software company involved in industrial optimization and compliance and with expertise in the acquisition and analysis of data from manufacturing equipment.

CFE Media and Technology editors were at CSIA looking for good content. Appearing in December, CFE Media’s Global System Integrator Report will share with readers system integrator case study examples, technology backgrounders and best practice insights.

Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media